With the Trump administration working to finalize its choices for who will run the Pentagon and State Department, it’s becoming clear that getting top national security posts in the new White House requires two qualifications: intense personal loyalty to Donald Trump himself and an almost obsessive fixation on the potential threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism.
There are alarming news reports about upcoming Trump cabinet appointments to fill key slots in the national security and foreign policy apparatus. They raise the specter of undoing nearly 70 years of carefully-constructed consensus in U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Presidents hearkening back to Lyndon Johnson have opposed Israeli settlements, and since George HW Bush they’ve supported a two-state solution. More recently, President Obama adopted an anti-interventionist course in the quagmire that is Syria. He and Pres. Bush also rejected an Israeli offer to jointly attack Iran.
Despite Trump’s avowed inclination to stay out of overseas conflicts, it’s quite possible key advisors and allies in the region like Benjamin Netanyahu could inveigle him into such military adventurism.
“Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country. This is the position of the president-elect: the era of a Palestinian state is over.”
— Naftali Bennett, Israeli Education Minister
Israeli government ministers and political figures are pushing the U.S. president-elect, Donald Trump, to quickly fulfill his campaign promise to overturn decades of US foreign policy and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv.
Their calls came as one of Trump’s advisers on Israel and the Middle East, David Friedman, told the Jerusalem Post that Trump would follow through on his promise.
“It was a campaign promise and there is every intention to keep it,” Friedman said. “We are going to see a very different relationship between America and Israel in a positive way.”
Other political figures — including Israel’s controversial far-right education minister, Naftali Bennett — went further, suggesting that Trump’s election should signal the end of the two-state solution and aspirations for a Palestinian state.
What is clear, for all the muddle, is that the centre of gravity in US thinking is lurching from the two-state solution as it has been understood by US politicians and diplomats for more than 20 years seemingly towards one of two extremes: a maximalist pro-Israel administration or, equally risky, a minimalist and disconnected isolationist position.
As Donald Trump continues to ponder his choice for secretary of state, and other key foreign policy positions, one thing seems clear: the impact on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians is likely to be serious and retrograde.
The question now is whether the moribund process, which has weathered presidents both Republican and Democrat since it was sealed in 1993 with the aim of securing a two-state solution, can survive the Trump era at all.
The signs are not encouraging. Israel’s far right has greeted Trump’s success with ecstasy, hailing his promises to recognize Jerusalem as the country’s capital and move the US embassy to the city, as well as suggestions from his team he would not stand in the way of Israeli settlement construction.
The frontrunners for the secretary of state nomination — Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton — have both been vocal opponents of the idea of a Palestinian state.
Trump’s own pronouncements have swerved wildly between suggesting he would be “neutral” on the question, promising to be Israel’s “best friend,” and even suggesting he could secure the best peace deal ever.
Meanwhile his advisers have fueled a sense of deep confusion by making a series of highly contradictory statements.
The United States is paying a military and security price “every day” because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning that the continued construction of settlements is liable to turn Israel into an apartheid state.
Donald Trump says he is considering retired Marine general James Mattis as a possible Defense Secretary:
Mattis has been outspoken, that the U.S. pays a “security price” in the Middle East because it is seen as biased in favor of Israel and that Israel is in danger of becoming an apartheid state due to its occupation of the West Bank.
A former U.S. general said last week that the United States is paying a military and security price “every day” because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning that the continued construction of settlements is liable to turn Israel into an apartheid state.
Gen. (ret.) James Mattis, who until two months ago headed the Central Command of the U.S. Army (CENTCOM) and commanded U.S. forces in the Middle East, made the comments at an Aspen Institute conference last Saturday…
Gen. (ret.) Mattis then sounded a prophecy of doom regarding what is liable to happen if a Palestinian state is not established. “I would tell you that the current situation is unsustainable,” he said, adding, “It’s got to be directly addressed. We have got to find a way to make the two-state solution that Democrat and Republican administrations have supported. We’ve got to get there, and the chances for it are starting to ebb because of the settlements, and where they’re at. [They] are going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option.”
With the election of Donald Trump as president, a lot of progressive Americans must be feeling what we here in the Israeli Left have felt for a long time: outnumbered, unwanted, frustrated, and alone.
For a while now, I’ve been writing about how lonely it is to be a leftist in Israel, to be part of the minority that opposes the occupation and 50 years of discrimination and human rights violations, a minority that insists on challenging fundamental aspects of this government’s policies and this society’s values. About how it has become increasingly dangerous and radical simply to speak one’s mind, as the notions of equal rights and human rights have become derogatory terms, and as open criticism and dissent is explicitly silenced. How scary and frustrating it is to see the values and issues I believe in consistently voted down and publicly delegitimized.
What the success of Netanyahu — who was elected first in 1996 on the back of the Rabin murder and a campaign of incitement against the Left, and to his fourth term in 2015 again on the back of incitement against Palestinians citizens — and the success of Trump — who incites against or insults just about everyone — prove is that democracy is not a bulwark against inequality, racism, violence, oppression, and sexism. On the contrary, it is all too easy for people to democratically elect to do horrible things.